Irene and her family also met me at the door.
Wrapped in warm blankets, surrounded by muted walls and the rush of doctors and nurses Irene sat in her wheelchair. During this last year, she hadn't left her home except for the occasional doctor's appointment or a car ride to the family farm by the lake. Her life consisted of days where she seemed to grow stronger and days where she seemed to regress.
Today Irene found herself outside the comfort of her home where her care came from her husband and nieces and nephews. The emergency room was full. A code blue signaled on the overhead radio. Worried families sat waiting. Patients in pain. The flu season still holding a grip over the community.
Mary had been on my mind in preparation for Sunday's sermon. With the fifth week of Lent upon us, Mary drifted in and out of my thoughts. I wondered about her gift and how she could afford such extravagant perfume. I wondered if she worried about her acts. I wondered if she knew the importance of anointing Jesus. I wondered what it takes to humble oneself so completely.
I continued to trudge through the tiredness of cold and snow. This Lent the community embraced the depth of pain and loss felt by our brothers and sisters, the frustrations of being unable to control the effects of growing old, and then this week Mary challenged us with her extravagant gift. Her abundant love for Jesus.
"Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus' feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume."
I always carry my container of oil with me. I never pass up the opportunity to offer a blessing.
Mary inspired me with her gift of perfume.
So there in the emergency room, we gathered for a prayer. We placed our hands on Irene and we prayed. We prayed for healing. We prayed for strength for whatever may come. We prayed for the hands and hearts who care for so many in the community. We prayed in words and in our silence.
I then made the sign of the cross on Irene's forehead with oil.
The scent of frankincense and myrrh.
The scent of Mary's perfume so long ago.
We remember Mary together. We know what is to come for Jesus after the anointing. But even in death, we have the lingering fragrance of an extravagant love that takes hold of everyone.
Mary's gift of anointing Jesus and the fragrance of her abundant love, of Jesus' abundant love for us, still remain in our reach. Sometimes the smell is so powerful that we can hardly stand on our two feet. We get a waft of the fragrance of healing precisely in the midst of death. We get a waft of the fragrance of hope precisely when our lives are no longer in our control. We get a waft of the fragrance of God's love in the most unlikely of places.